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An Irresolute Year

At the end of 2011, I wrote about how that year had managed to tally up an extraordinary count of unresolved problems, taking into 2012 a mass of uncertainty. Now, at the conclusion of 2012, what is most striking is how these issues remain pretty much as unresolved as they were a year ago, and the uncertainty is still very much with us. The year has played out like one long musical suspended chord, awaiting the resolution which has failed to come. Greece is still in talks about its debt, markets are still volatile, jobs are scarce, politicians are still harping on pointlessly about the need for growth, “austerity” is still the word of choice among conservatives everywhere, and Capital is still, by and large, on strike.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s end of year message is that the country is making “real progress”, in stark contrast to all the data that says the exact opposite. Of course, if your constituency is the stupidly wealthy, and your goal is to hand over democratic power to an oligarchy, then of course 2012 has been a year of leaps and bounds in ways that I needn’t spell out to anyone in the UK. Cameron’s aristocratic fantasy project of “The Big Society” is still marched out from time to time, and remains identical to Thatcher’s “no such thing as society”, a mandate to relieve the wealthy from their obligations. Ironically, the only actual thing I have encountered this year that even remotely resembled the ideals of “The Big Society” was the “people’s library” of Friern Barnett in North London. Closed down by the council in April due to government spending cuts, it was reopened by members of the Occupy movement, the shelves completely restocked by community donations. A quite extraordinary thing to have seen, and done out of complete opposition to the big society government. In all likelihood, the occupiers will be forced to leave the library in the early new year. Score Zero for society.

One thing that remains the same is the quite successful conservative tactic of blaming the woes of the country on welfare recipients. Never mind that you could load up all those “welfare scroungers” onto a rock and fire them into the sun and you would not only fail to improve the economy but would almost certainly create more unemployment. Never mind that welfare provides huge effective subsidies to business. Never mind that the welfare bill is tiny in proportion to the amount of tax that is lost to the kinds of clever accountancy only affordable by the rich and the corporations. In a hierarchical society, those who are kicked by those above will inevitably kick those below, lacking any path to confront their own oppressor. We’re “all in it together”, except when we are not. We scapegoat, and we lose our freedom. We have already lost far more than we think: it’s never as far as we believe between blaming an isolated and defenceless social group and loading them up on trains to Auschwitz. Lest we forget, Niemöller is always there to remind us:

First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the socialists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

The US has navigated its way through another election year. To the relief of most people around the world they have chosen the status quo of the centre-right rather than continuing their own goose-stepped march towards the precipice of the far right (Romney, in 2008, expressed the view that America’s own Auschwitz at Guantanamo Bay should, far from being closed down, be expanded along with its powers of “interrogation”). As I write, the US sits on the edge of the wholly imaginary “fiscal cliff” but are continuing to happily ignore the much more real “carbon cliff” that may even be behind us now, but is in any case the accepted necessary sacrifice to the god of capitalism. The one small ray of (short-term) light is that Dubya’s tax holiday for the rich is due to expire so maybe they’ll remember that debt can be paid through income (i.e. tax) rather than just further borrowing. Of course, what is politically plausible is mostly determined by the rich, so maybe not…

For me personally it has been a frustrating year, every bit as unresolved as the greater world. Two decades of career pretty much came to an end before February had finished. Circumstances forced my hand there, but it was rather inevitable anyway – there’s only so much cognitive dissonance a person can live with. My subsequent attempts to get on with writing ran into difficulties in the middle of the year as I went through my own existential crises (apologies for the lack of blogging here on that score). There were many reasons for this, not least having to swim in the quagmire of bullshit political and economic illiteracy of the welfare-bashing kind described above. But the year has not been wholly wasted – I have read and learned more than ever before in my life: one other reason the writing dried up was the sheer volume of material I have been trying to absorb, assimilate, and organise in my mind. With the new year coming and my savings dwindling I need to return to paid work. I’d like to try a “Hippocratic” approach to work this time round – to find work that does no harm, and possibly some good. This rules-out my previous lines of work. I will try and find work in the non-profit sector if I can. But we’ll see how it goes.

At this point I’ll sign off and wish you all a happy new year. Hopefully I’ll get bits of writing out to you all a bit more consistently but, as the saying goes, que sera sera.


Categories: Politics
  1. January 3, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Happy new year Tim. Hope you have a good 2013 and things pick-up on all fronts. Another good article, thank you

    • January 3, 2013 at 2:28 pm

      Hey there Ashley!
      Happy new year to you. And thanks. I’m trying to update my CV right now and am feeling a strong resistance to it! How’s things with you?

      (Yes, I know I haven’t answered your comment on growth – a classic example of putting off until tomorrow what one could do today until it falls off the radar… The very very short answer [it deserves a much longer one] is no – GDP growth is usually measured on a per-capita basis and so is population-agnostic as it were – growth as such is about raising the average level of economic activity [which says nothing about distribution – nearly all growth in the last 30 years has accrued to the top wealth percentiles])


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